When a convention about the #newreality becomes the #newreality

by Toon Diependaele - September 28, 2017

for the very first time Sept. 15-17, at the Festhalle in Frankfurt, Germany – not just at the same time as the International Motor Show but on top of it in the same location. Described as a convention about “createthenew in the areas of #newcreation, #newleadership, #newrealities, #newurbanism and #newvelocity”, the organizers gathered more than 100 thought leaders and international stars, from astronaut Buzz Aldrin to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to Amber Valletta, the top model and activist for sustainable fashion.

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Buzz Aldrin set the scene with his challenge to the younger generation : “Get Your Ass to Mars,” and Sheryl Sandberg set everyone straight, saying that few companies fail because they move too quickly – rather, most fail because they move too slowly.

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But looking back on the convention and all the speeches, the thrust was not so much the speed at which we need to go, but the direction we need to take. In his closing keynote speech, A$AP Rocky (the stage name of Rakim Mayers, a 28-year-old New York rapper, musician, actor and fashion entrepreneur) made it clear that the essence of his innovation and entrepreneurship was not being independent or using technology but being significant and, above all, genuine.

Hartmut Esslinger, founder of Frog Design, talked about his days with Steve Jobs in the 90s, when they were being outpaced by Sony. Instead of trying to be another Sony, they chose to create a new kind of Apple, because copying only gets you AI – Artificial Incompetence. We need to find out what we want to accomplish, design the solution and only then decide how we want to bring it to market.

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Nick Foster, Head of Industrial Design at “moonshot factory” X (formerly known as Google X), described the future as mundane and invited us to take a more pragmatic approach to designing and consuming the future. We should never forget thatin designing future journeys we need to cater for three outcomes: the possible, the plausible and the probable.

Linked to this, Rana June, CEO of Lightwave, who works at the intersection between data, art and analysis, invited us to use technology in a different way: to validate our thinking but not to define it.

Even AI was put on the spot by Tim Leberecht, former head of marketing at Frog Design. His argument was that whereas in the past you got fired if you didn’t have the data, in the future you’re going to lose your job if you don’t have intuition. Would an AI machine ever decide to give 10% of all shares to its employees, like the founder of Greek yogurt company Chobani did? As machines take our jobs and perform them more efficiently, soon, the only work at which we humans will excel will be the kind that must be done beautifully, rather than efficiently.

Still not convinced ? Well, John Cohn, one of the people behind IBM Watson, had some simple advice: Learn how to play again.

Distilling all the different insights and points of view, it is clear that the future lies in creatively driven solutions that can be inspired by data or simple human insight.

But the biggest innovation I take home with me from the conference is not from the speeches or the motor show, but the marketing creativity Mercedes-Benz displayed by organizing this convention.

In our Brand Asset Valuator study we see a decline in differentiation and innovation by the traditional car brands. The me Convention is, from my perspective, an attempt by Mercedes to increase its relevance. Instead of push marketing, i.e. drawing attention to its own creativity, it’s pull marketing– attracting an audience by taking it with you and listening to it. And eventually bringing it on board with your brand as consumers – or even employees.

So let’s be creatively driven and data-inspired.

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Toon Diependaele

Chief Strategy Officer